Ambition and Emotions Rise in ‘The Founders’, A History of PayPal

The Story of PayPal and the Entrepreneurs Who Shaped Silicon Valley
By Jimmy Soni
474 pages. Simon & Schuster. $30.

Dying is easy; Dramaticizing the dot-com world is hard. Where is the action in people staring at computer screens, pointing and clicking and typing? Even the costumes, hoodies and such worn by programmers, the props being the empty pizza box and the foosball table and the sleeping bag under the desk, missing some of the biggest touches. determined. At least the ’80s financiers had nimble hangers, martinis, strip clubs, and trading pads that they could flail around amid the screams of the trading floor. .

The growth of online “wallets” seems particularly bloodless – what, those things that you sometimes use to buy things on the internet and often forget your password? — and “The Founders: The Story of PayPal and the Entrepreneurs Who Shaped Silicon Valley,” by Jimmy Soni, is an intensely magnetic chronicle in which ambitions and emotions flare up. fire like in the Aaron Sorkin-written Facebook movie, “Social Networks.” It helps that PayPal’s origin story, although essentially a mash-up, features two of the more complex anti-heroes of our time: Peter Thielwho became an important figure in right-wing politics, and Elon Musk, is currently the richest person in the world, who is always fiercely entering space. Once the subject of major biographies.

Yet here, interviewed with scores of PayPal employees – sometimes referred to as the “PayPal mafia” for their ruthless madness – they are just two money-hungry young men trying to deceive moon, and often goes missing. Or collide, as they did when Musk drove them to a meeting with Sequoia Capital in a McLaren F1 sports car he bought after selling an early start-up, Zip2. Thiel compared the excursion a bit far-fetched to being “like this Hitchcock movie,” but it suddenly became “Dukes of Hazzard”: The car hit an embankment and sped through the air “like it was.” a plate,” Musk recalls. (He and Thiel entered the meeting individually unscathed, despite wearing their seat belts, not even talking about the incident.)

Initially, Thiel thought that the “exchange” of money between PalmPilots, the short-lived predecessors of smartphones, would be the next big thing; An old friend from Stanford convinced him to focus on email payments. Thiel in Soni’s account is a pessimistic, sometimes unscrupulous, and fiercely competitive man, beating nine out of 10 of his peers in chess even after performing a rare celebratory stand. “Show me a good loser, and I’ll show you a loser,” he told an initial employee, repeating Donald J. Trump’s rhetoricwhich Thiel would later support the presidential campaign. Ambition and Emotions Rise in ‘The Founders’, A History of PayPal

Fry Electronics Team

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